Bundy, the BLM, and the Whiskey Rebellion

The feds always get out of control.
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The tense standoff at the Cliven Bundy ranch in Clarke County, Nevada tapped into a wellspring of government distrust that dwarfed Bundy’s specific situation. A comparable event from just over 200 years ago, the “Whiskey Rebellion,” suggests the government’s efforts to quell small pockets of insurrection like Bundy and his allies can easily cause more political problems than they’re worth.

Although the 1794 incident was at a vastly larger scale than the standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, the situations share important parallels including the use of what many people in each situation considered the disproportionate use of force by the government.

In Bundy’s case, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is demanding that Bundy remove his family’s herd of cattle from federal land, due in part to the presence of tortoises, and claims he owes them $300,000 in grazing fees. Bundy claimed he would do “whatever it takes,” to keep using the land, denied the authority of the federal government, and said that his stand is “a statement for freedom and liberty and the Constitution.” While few question the federal government’s legal right to the land, many view it as government overreach and wonder about federal priorities elevating tortoises over human beings.

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